U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today helped break ground on the "Englewood Flyover" project, a critical component to the Chicago hub of the Midwest high-speed rail network. The construction project will build a bridge to separate traffic along two railroads, allowing 130 trains per day to move more quickly through one of the worst bottlenecks in North America. The investment will improve on-time performance of passenger trains, reduce freight congestion and create nearly 1,500 jobs.
Secretary LaHood was joined by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, U.S. Congressmen Bobby Rush and Dan Lipinski, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other state and local elected officials, as well as business, labor and civic leaders.
"Projects like this one are exactly why President Obama has made transportation such a big part of the American Jobs Act," said Sec. LaHood. "We have workers on site today, American factories producing new supplies, and when the project is completed, people and goods will move more quickly and easily through the Midwest, making the region a better place to start a business or hire new workers."
The $133 million construction project is funded through a $126 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation's high-speed intercity passenger rail program, with a $6.6 million contribution from Gov. Quinn's Illinois Jobs Now! Construction program. This marks the start of the second major construction project in the Midwest, as work is also under way on the Chicago-St. Louis High-Speed Rail Corridor. Workers will build a bridge to carry 78 daily North-South Metra Rock Island commuter trains and approximately 60 East-West intercity passenger and freight trains that operate on the Norfolk Southern corridor. The new bridge will allow all trains to pass through without conflict and is designed to allow for additional tracks to be added to both corridors to accommodate future growth.
"The Englewood Flyover will make life easier for tens of thousands of commuters every day and put people to work immediately," Gov. Pat Quinn said. "This vital project will eliminate a problem spot and set the stage for future passenger rail growth while boosting Illinois' position at the economic engine of the Midwest."
"Nearly two years ago, many of us gathered here to announce $133 million in funding – including $126 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – to begin rebuilding the rail system right here on the South Side of Chicago. When the Englewood Flyover project is complete, freight and passenger train will move more efficiently, saving time and money. But, more importantly, as a result of this federal funding, the hard hit construction industry in the Chicago metro area will see 1,500 jobs – good-paying jobs that can't be outsourced. If we are going to continue growing our economy, we need more projects like this one, not fewer, which is why the American Jobs Act is so important," Sen. Durbin said.
"The potential construction jobs and contracts from The Flyover arrive right on time for residents and business owners in the First Congressional District," said Congressman Rush. "For years people living and working in this neighborhood have endured the smoke and noise from idling trains in their community. I am working hard to make sure that women and minorities have every opportunity to work and obtain contracts and to participate as we lay the groundwork for high speed rail that will carry our community, city, nation and economy forward."
"Every day, nearly 1,300 trains pass through Chicago-making it one of the busiest rail hubs in the United States," said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "CREATE will invest in critically needed improvements to increase the efficiency of passenger and freight rail infrastructure, enhance the quality of life for residents and ensure Chicago remains a competitive destination for travel and trade."
"There aren't many projects that deliver this kind of bang for the buck," Congressman Lipinski said. "As a linchpin of the CREATE rail modernization project, it's critical to modernizing our aging rail system, preserving our status as America's transportation hub, and boosting long-term job creation in northeastern Illinois. Having obtained the initial $100 million for CREATE back in 2005, I'm very glad we're finally breaking ground."
Since the 1990s, Midwestern states have planned an intercity passenger train network that connects the 40 largest cities in the Midwest with over 60 roundtrips from downtown Chicago each day. The Englewood project will benefit passengers traveling along an improved corridor from Detroit, which has been awarded several grants for construction projects to increase speeds to 110 mph. Travelers from Cleveland, Indianapolis and Cincinnati will also see fewer delays thanks to the new bridge. The project is part of the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program (CREATE), a public-private partnership between the state, city and railroads aimed at untangling Chicago's infamously snarled railroads where conflicts cause delays across all modes of travel.
A strict "Buy America" requirement ensures U.S. manufacturers and workers receive the maximum economic benefits from this federal investment. The project will boost domestic manufacturing of railway supplies. According to Railway Supply Institute, Illinois railway suppliers account for over $4.5 billion in sales each year, more than any other state in the nation. U.S. DOT previously announced a $782 million investment for a fleet of next-generation American-made trains to operate across the Midwest and in California.
Thirty-two states across the U.S. and the District of Columbia are currently laying the foundation for passenger rail corridors to link Americans with faster and more energy-efficient travel options. To date, U.S. DOT has invested $10.1 billion to put America on track towards providing new and expanded rail access to communities and improving the reliability, speed, and frequency of existing service.